“Human history has become too much a matter of dogma taught by ‘professionals’ in ivory towers as though it’s all fact. Actually, much of human history is up for grabs. The further back you go, the more that the history that’s taught in the schools and universities begins to look like some kind of faerie story.” ― Graham Hancock
The Mayas have been a perfect epitome in building of such fairy tales and have been under scrutiny and discussion for a long period now. The calendrical 2012 feature was a theatrical glimpse on the scientific advancement of the people. A lot has been done to reconstruct the history and advancement of Man throughout eras and ages and the Mayas had a lot to offer and contribute to the evolving of the human race.
The beautiful town of Belize, set in the exquisite region of Central America has recently come under great speculation for the growing interest in the Mayan archaeology, the body of symbols and the architectural and antiquarian importance it holds.
Every era has a story to tell. The Mayans were accordingly strong believers of communication through the art of the body and rhythms. Across time and culture, the use of the body has been known to be one of the most important medium of conveying thoughts and expressing feelings. Throughout the Americas, music and dance have always been an essential part of the spiritual, cultural and social lives of Natives. The Maize God of ancient Maya was a God of dance who is depicted emerging into the world, dancing and playing a turtle shell drum worn on his chest. After his mythic journey to the underworld, the maize god dances back to life between the rain spirit, Chahk, and the spirit of standing water.
This mural of the dancing maize God has been one of the earliest known portrayal and architectural representation of the Mesoamerican depictions in pottery, jade carvings (Altun Ha), Temples etc. To this day unique forms of ritual, ceremonial and social dancing maintain a vital place in contemporary community life. The tradition of this music and dance helps to connect the natives with the other living components of Earth, the spiritual world and each other.
The depictions of such murals have formed a glorious backdrop to the immense architectural diversities of the Mayan era. However, over time these marvelous architectural pieces have been thoroughly exploited and looted. The ancient Maya were a group of scientifically, culturally and artistically advanced community located in parts of now Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and, of course, Belize.
The lost cities of Mayan civilization have been under reconstruction since a few decades and the lost pieces of archeological evidences are slowly and steadily garnered and their story reconstructed. This has been a rough path for the archeologists since every site of Mayan era has been looted by collectors and curators.
However, multidisciplinary research project focused on researching the transnational criminal trafficking of looted and stolen cultural property was commissioned to concentrate on the dwindling sources of architectural marvels and to carve out a niche to preserve and protect the cultural history of the Mayans. This may take a while to be successful since archaeologists have lost a lot of information and are now trying to string the tattered pieces back.
Recently, a short documentary was released by Night Fire Films, titled “Dance of the Maize God”, to recuperate on the importance of a structural envision of the once glorious Mayan era. The film explores issues such as “excavation, study and the exhibition of Ancient Maya art”.
More studies have been emerging ever since, now that the importance of such architectural and archaeological remnants have proved to be path breaking in constructing a history that has been ignored and uncared for a long time.
A lot of interest is also brewing among the tourists who have a thirst for such archaeological and historical aspects of ancient civilization like that of Maya, and our beautiful town of Belize can offer just that – with many commercial set ups springing up to promote the historical knowledge and the story of the Mayas through the excavation sites in Belize.
As part of Belize uncovered, we bring you some of these excavation sites that have garnered a lot of interest among the tourists and researchers alike, and are usually open to the public as small group excursions, cruise and guided tours.
Altun Ha Ruins: A relatively small Mayan community of 3000-10,000 people, this site is believed to have been a strategically located affluent trading center, boasting of the largest Mayan jade carving ever found. This jade head named Kinich Ahau (“Sun God”) weighs nine pounds. Historically, Altun Hadates back to 600 BC and was an active Mayan town until the end of the Mayan era, somewhere around 900 AD. Architecturally Altun Ha clearly exemplifies the Mayan architectural accomplishments even during those days.
Lamanai Ruins: Lamanai (Mayan for Submerged Crocodile), located beneath the forest canopy along New River Lagoon is the second largest Mayan site in Belize, where hundreds of structures of historical and archeological significance have been identified so far. Lamanaiis said to have been active around 1500 BC until the nineteenth century – the longest known time of Mayan dwelling.
Another prominent example of Mayan architecture and civilization can be found in the Xunantunich ruins, located in the Cayo district of Belize that is well-excavated and easily accessible. This site has is reminiscent of some of the largest Mayan Temples that are found in Tikal and Copan.
Other noteworthy Mayan ruins of Belize are the Caracol (largest known Mayan city state and archeological site located in the forests of Chiquibil Forest Reserve), Tikal (most august of the Mayan cities that are well excavated with all and pompous pyramids that highlight the Mayan architecture) and the “yet to be explored” El Pilar that straddles to about 100 acres of promising Mayan archaeological finds.
Restructuring of the past through the finds from these archaeological sites will probably unfold stories about the Mayan civilization hidden deep somewhere, only to help us have a better humanistic approach to our past, and rediscover from those lost ages gone by.
The future has unknown revelations yet to be uncovered but the past has been the backbone of the survival and existence of the fittest. Hence, it is only fair that we put in efforts to learn and unlearn from era’s untold.